RBS seeks suitors for branches

ROYAL Bank of Scotland has sent sales documents to prospective buyers of the branches it is being forced to sell, in the hope it can draw up a shortlist next month.

News agency Reuters said information was despatched to trade buyers Nationwide and Virgin Money, private equity player JC Flowers and another suitor, sources said.

RBS was ordered to sell 316 branches – many in the North West – by European regulators as a condition of receiving a £45bn bailout in 2008 which left it 81% government owned.

It was forced to restart the sale process after Santander  pulled out of a deal to buy the branches last month.

Reuters said RBS has received expressions of interest from Corsair Capital, led by former Standard Chartered chairman Mervyn Davies, and a joint venture between Blackstone and Anacap, the backers of new bank Aldermore.

JC Flowers is interested in buying the branches as part of its plan to expand in UK financial services and build on the Kent Reliance business it bought last year, another source said.

Virgin Money is looking at further expansion opportunities having purchased Northern Rock last year. Nationwide, the UK’s biggest building society, would also like to build up its branch network and strengthen its challenge to the major banks.

RBS is now likely to receive considerably less than the £1.65bn price agreed with Santander, which withdrew two years after the deal was agreed, citing difficulties relating to technology and integration.

UBS is advising RBS on the sale process, which has been code named “Rainbow”.